Manuela Saenz was an iconic South American revolutionary who played a key role in the liberation of New Granada. She was also the mistress of Simón Bolívar, the South American revolutionary leader. Saenz was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman but she was born out of wedlock. She was married off to a rich English merchant at the age of 19. During her short lived marriage, she came into contact with army personnel and leading politicians, since they were regular visitors at social fixtures at her home. She got to know about the revolution and was inspired by the revolution that was led by Simon Bolivar for the liberation of New Granada. Eventually she left her husband and moved to Quito to help Bolivar with the revolution. She became one of the most important members of the group of people who were fighting for the cause. Manuela Saenz had a difficult existence following the death of Bolivar as she was sent into exile by the powers that be; however she is regarded as one of the pillars of the revolution in the present day.
Childhood & Early Life
Dona Manuela Saenz was born on December 27, 1797 in Quito in present day Ecuador. At that time the city belonged to the Viceroyalty of New Granada. She was an illegitimate child born to Maria Joaquina Aizpuru, a native woman, and Simon Saenz Vergara, a nobleman from Spain named.
Manuela Saenz’s mother’s family severed ties with her mother and Saenz lived with her father during her childhood. She studied at the Convent of Saint Catalina where she received basic education but her time at school was brought to an end when she was 17 years old. She was seduced by an army officer and the school decided to throw her out.
In 1817, Manuela Saenz’s father Simon Saenz Vergara married her off to James Thorne, an Englishman who was a prosperous merchant. They lived in Lima, Peru and had a dynamic social life as some of the better known politicians and army men adorned their guest list for social gatherings.
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During Manuela Saenz’s time in Lima, several politicians as well as army personnel visited her household and she came to know about the revolution in relation to the liberation of New Granada. In 1820, she joined the secret movement to overthrow the viceroy of Peru at the time and Simon Bolivar’s work in New Granada proved to be the inspiration.
Manuela Saenz separated from her husband James Thorne in 1822 and move to Quito in order to be close to Simon Bolivar. The couple exchanged letters and was in a romantic relationship straightaway. She became a key ally in Bolivar’s revolutionary efforts and helped him in every way possible.
Manuela Saenz went with Simon Bolivar to Lima and lived together for a year starting from 1825; however, Bolivar had to leave due to his commitment to the revolution. Saenz eventually shifted her base to Bogota to be together with Bolivar and a few years later saved him from being assassinated.
In 1830, Simon Bolivar died while he was making his way out of Colombia and thereafter Manuela Saenz was all on her own. Francisco de Paula Santander took charge of the country after Bolivar’s death and sent Saenz to Jamaica in exile. Five years later, she tried to come back to Ecuador but her passport was revoked and instead she started living in Paita, a small town in northern part of Peru.
The last years of her life were an unhappy one as he had very little money and survived by selling tobacco and translating letters for people. She was even denied the inheritance that she was entitled to following the murder of her husband James Thorne.
Manuela Saenz was an integral part of the struggle to liberate New Granada under the leadership of Simon Bolivar and played a key role in the movement.
Awards & Achievements
Due to her services to the revolution and also for being one of the few women who were involved in it, Manuela Saenz was awarded the ‘Order of the Sun’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Manuela Saenz got married to James Thorne, a rich merchant in 1817 but she left him five years later. They had no children.
Manuela Saenz also had a romantic relationship with Simon Bolivar from 1822 till the latter’s death in 1830. They did not have any children either.
Manuela Saenz died on November 23, 1856 due to diphtheria in Paita, Peru.